Recall movement against Mayor Cantrell pushes forward

Katherine Dawson, Contributing Reporter

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Central is facing a recall petition, but the movement faces tough odds of victory. (PopTech on Flickr)

A month into the recall movement against New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell, the battle has created serious opinions from supporters and opponents and is facing tough odds as it works to garner the approximate 54,000 signatures needed before the Feb. 22 deadline

On Aug. 23, Eileen Carter, Cantrell’s previous social media manager, and Belden ‘Noonie Man’ Batiste filed a recall petition for Mayor Cantrell. Both Carter and Batiste hold community-level leadership positions in New Orleans.

Many locals supporting the recall are focused on the issue of taxpayer money. In July, Cantrell spent nearly $30,000 on first-class travel tickets to Europe, fully funded by the city’s collected tax money. Cantrell said the first-class seats were for her safety as a Black woman.  

Some local voters at Tulane University are against Cantrell’s travel spending.  

She uses the people’s tax money to fund her vacations, when there are so many other issues in the city,” Rene Guillot, a sophomore from New Orleans, said.

Senior Joan Benjamin, a New Orleanian who said she does not plan to sign the recall petition, said Mayor Cantrell has “questionable decision-making skills at times,” regarding her first-class flight booking. 

But, “I don’t think that there’s enough evidence for me to truly recall Cantrell,” Benjamin said. 

A major cause for concern for decades, New Orleans’ rising crime rate is a consistent point of conversation. This year, New Orleans is poised to return as the murder capital of the United States, surpassing that of Baltimore by 7.7 per 100,000 resident-murder rate as of June 30, 2022.   

Rosalind Cook, an adjunct professor at Tulane who has worked in the mayor’s office alongside former mayors Marc Morial and Ray Nagin, said crime is a key issue for voters.   

“I think the biggest problem is the crime situation,” Cook said. “But we have to look nationwide. And certainly, the crime situation nationwide has been quite extensive.”

Cook raised the question: should citizens put full blame on Cantrell, or is she simply receiving the brute force of the increasing crime and homicide rates as the leader of the city? 

She hasn’t really seen [decreased crime] yet,” Cook said. “And certainly, she would need to see that in her second term, I think, for people to actually recognize that she has done some positive things.” 

The discourse around Mayor Cantrell’s legislation during the initial wave of COVID-19 is another heated point of conversation. For many New Orleans locals, it is an emotional topic as the city was one of the first in the United States to face a major outbreak. 

“People tend to forget that New Orleans was an epicenter of COVID,” Benjamin said. “I think part of the reason why her restrictions were so strict is because of that.” 

“I think she was kind of between a rock and a hard place with those restrictions because obviously, they weren’t super popular,” she said.     

Guillot said she views Cantrell’s policies in a different light. 

Her regulations caused a lot of businesses in the city to close down, which have been here for decades,” Guillot said. 

But amid debate, the question remains: is a recall viable?  

Besides the numbers that you have to have, the state has to look over every name and certify that each one of those individuals is actually registered to vote in Orleans Parish,” Cook said. 

Many citizens, regardless of if they support or are against the potential recall, are hesitant that the movement will be successful. 

I’m pretty doubtful that she’ll actually be recalled, but I guess we’ll see,” Benjamin said.

“It would be a very, very uphill battle to have a mayor recalled,” Cook said.

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